Marine litter
Marine litter is a global problem that affects every ocean of the world. Litter is an environmental, human health and socio-economic problem that is a symptom of a highly disposable society.

With worldwide growth in the amount of solid litter thrown away every day and slow rates of degradation, the amount of litter present in the marine environment is increasing.

Research

Published paper: Solutions for global marine litter pollution

Highlights:

• Knowledge on the causes and solutions of marine litter offers a base for effective action

• Solutions to marine litter are found in a transition towards sustainable societies

• Appropriate responses could be based on possible interventions and success factors

• Dynamics of marine litter actions differ and orchestration at all levels is lacking.

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Published: Wear and Tear of Tyres: A Stealthy Source of Microplastics in the Environment

Wear and tear from tyres significantly contributes to the flow of (micro-)plastics into the environment. This paper compiles the fragmented knowledge on tyre wear and tear characteristics, amounts of particles emitted, pathways in the environment, and the possible effects on humans. The estimated per capita emission ranges from 0.23 to 4.7 kg/year, with a global average of 0.81 kg/year. The emissions from car tyres (100%) are substantially higher than those of other sources of microplastics, e.g., airplane tyres (2%), artificial turf (12–50%), brake wear (8%) and road markings (5%). Emissions and pathways depend on local factors like road type or sewage systems. The relative contribution of tyre wear and tear to the total global amount of plastics ending up in our oceans is estimated to be 5–10%. In air, 3–7% of the particulate matter (PM2.5) is estimated to consist of tyre wear and tear, indicating that it may contribute to the global health burden of air pollution which has been projected by the World Health Organization (WHO) at 3 million deaths in 2012. The wear and tear also enters our food chain, but further research is needed to assess human health risks. It is concluded here that tyre wear and tear is a stealthy source of microplastics in our environment, which can only be addressed effectively if awareness increases, knowledge gaps on quantities and effects are being closed, and creative technical solutions are being sought. This requires a global effort from all stakeholders; consumers, regulators, industry and researchers alike

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The risk of microplastics in Indonesian coastal areas for coastal seafood species and human health

New PhD project by Inneke Hantoro. The risk of microplastics in Indonesian coastal areas for coastal seafood species and human health.

Supervisors:

Ansje Löhr*, Ad Ragas*, Budi Widianarko**, Frank van Belleghem*

* Open Universiteit, The Netherlands

** Soegijapranata Catholic University, Semarang, Indonesia

“Plastic pollution in Indonesia and possible risks to coastal sea food species and human health.”

A MST-NW seminar held on March 6th by Prof. dr. Budi Widianarko. Prof. dr. Budi Widianarko is a professor of Environmental Toxicology at the Graduate Program on Environment and Urban Studies, Soegijapranata Catholic University (SCU), Semarang – Indonesia. His teachings and research are centered around environmental and natural resources management, as well as food ecology and safety. Cooperation OU - USC. There is already a long term scientific collaboration between the Open University (OU) and the Soegijapranata Catholic University (USC). The collaboration focuses mainly on the field of environmental and urban studies. The last years there is a strong focus on the theme plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is worldwide recognized as one of the most serious environmental problems.

 

Article 'Microplastics in the Belgian North Sea' in June 2016 in NATUUR.FOCUS

Schnitzler N., Van Belleghem F. & Löhr A. 2016. Microplastics in the Belgian North Sea. An emerging threat for the marine fauna and ecosystems? Natuur.focus 15(2): 67-73 [in Dutch; with an English summary]

European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2016

Midst April 2016 we participated in this conference in Vienna with the presentation of a global modeling approach River export of plastic from land to sea.

Festival for Ocean Awareness

Festival for Ocean Awareness; an informal event organized by the Utrechtse Biologen Vereniging, 27th May 2016. Dr. Ansje Löhr was one of the speakers at the symposium part of the day.

Conference

Siegfried M., Gabbert S., Koelmans, A.A., Kroeze, C., Löhr, A. & Verburg, C. (2016) River Export of Plastic from Land to Sea: A Global Modeling Approach. Session HS5.10 Assessment and interpretation of state and trends in water quality EGU2016-11507.

Recent paper with colleagues from Wageningen University in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2016.

Global modelling of surface water quality: a multi-pollutant approach 
Carolien Kroeze, Silke Gabbert, Nynke Hofstra, Albert A Koelmans, Ang Li, Ansje Löhr, Fulco Ludwig, Maryna Strokal, Charlotte Verburg, Lucie Vermeulen, Michelle TH van Vliet, Wim de Vries, Mengru Wang and Jikke van Wijnen In many world regions the availability of clean water is at risk.
Pollution of rivers and coastal seas poses a threat to aquatic ecosystems and society. Here, we review representative examples of mathematical models that simulate pollutant flows from land to sea at global and continental scales. We argue that a multi-pollutant modelling approach would help to better understand and manage water quality issues. Pollutants often have common sources and multiple impacts. Most existing spatially explicit models, however, focus on one type of pollution only. A new generation of models is needed to explicitly address the combined exposure of surface waters to multiple pollutants. Such models could serve as a basis for integrated water quantity and water quality assessments.

Research team

Ansje Löhr has a Master’s degree in Marine Biology (University of Groningen, NL) and a PhD degree in Ecotoxicology (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, NL). She is an assistant professor at the Department of Science at the faculty of Management, Science and Technology of the Open University of the Netherlands. Her teaching and research activities are within the research theme “Plastic environmental pollution” covering aspects of (marine) biology, (eco)toxicology, environmental science, integrated water management and learning for sustainable development. She is the project leader of the Massive Open Online Course on Marine litter which is developed in close cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML). Besides she is involved in (international) projects on competence based e-learning. The Soegijapranata Catholic University (Semarang, Indonesia), is one of the important research partners in the research theme Plastic environmental pollution.

Ad Ragas (1964) studied biology and obtained his PhD at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He currently holds a position as a full professor in Environmental Natural Sciences at the Open University in Heerlen (the Netherlands), and as an associate professor in Nijmegen. His main expertise is the modelling of human and ecological risks of chemicals, including (micro)plastics. Within this domain, his focus is on quantifying and assessing uncertainty. He played an active role in European research projects like NoMiracle and PHARMAS, and currently participates in i-PiE and MEDUWA; two large European research projects on the environmental risks of pharmaceuticals. He coordinates the MSc programme in Environmental Sciences at the Open University and teaches several academic courses on risk assessment, GIS and statistics. He chairs the Dutch scientific advisory committee on quality standards for air and water, and is a member of the working group on mixture assessment of the European Food & Safety Authority (EFSA).

Dr. F.G.A.J. (Frank) Van Belleghem is an environmental toxicologist and an assistant professor at the School of Science in the Faculty of Management, Science & Technology (MST) of the Open University of the Netherlands. His teaching activities are in the field of biology, biochemistry, (environmental) toxicology and environmental sciences. He has been involved in several research projects at Hasselt University (Belgium) on the molecular and cellular aspects of toxicity and on the effects of environmental stress on regeneration and stem cell dynamics of the flatworms Schmidtea mediterranea and Macrostomum lignano. His area of expertise covers toxicity of environmental pollutants including nanoparticles and microplastics, oxidative stress, carcinogenesis, neurotoxicity, regeneration and electron- and fluorescence microscopy.

Inneke Hantoro has her Master degree on Food Science (The University of Melbourne, Australia). She is a full time lecturer at the Department of Food Science, Soegijapranata Catholic University, Indonesia. Her teaching and research activities are in areas related to food safety and quality, such as toxicology and food safety, food quality assurance, and risk analysis courses. Currently, she is a PhD student at Department of Science, Faculty of Management, Science & Technology, Open Universiteit, the Netherlands. Her research is focused on the risk of microplastics in Indonesian coastal areas for coastal seafood species and human health.

Education

Workshop plastic pollution at Clingendael Institute

Ansje Löhr and Frank Van Belleghem from the Faculty of Management, Science and Technology (MST) gave a workshop on plastic pollution in the oceans at the Netherlands Institute for International Relations Clingendael on 19 September 2017.

Marine pollution for small island states

18 Senior government officials from small island states participated in the workshop. During the workshop, attention was paid to the specific context of the issue of plastic marine pollution for small island states. Possible solutions to the problems were discussed with the participants.

 The workshop was held as part of the Diplomatic Training Program for Small Island Developing States. This training program aims to "Blue Diplomacy: Enhancing sustainable economic development of the ocean" or how diplomats can contribute to the sustainable greening of blue oceans.

Ansje Löhr: "This workshop is a good fit in the collaboration with UN Environment and the research into plastic pollution within the faculty of MST. Excellent that we were able to give this workshop for a special target groupat an institute like Clingendael, with a name in the field of climate change and sustainable development.”

About Clingendael

Clingendael, situated in the Hague, is a research institute that studies various aspects of international relations. The institute teaches many diplomats and government professionals, many of whom come from abroad.

May 2017: our second Massive Open Online Course on Marine Litter

To create global awareness, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in cooperation with the Open University of the Netherlands, launched a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Marine Litter in 2015. This highly successful MOOC with more than 6.500 students enabled its participants to stimulate leadership and offered opportunities for actionable and change oriented learning related to marine litter within the framework of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter.

Because of its success, this free course was rolled out again.

This second Massive Open Online Course on Marine Litter (MOOC) aimed to help almost 3.000 students, through action learning, on ways to apply strategies in the real world. Moreover, this course assisted policymakers, practitioners, and managers who wish to connect with other professionals to enhance their knowledge of marine litter issues.

The MOOC was available in two tracks: a leadership track and an expert track. It started in May 2017 with the Leadership track taking place over a course of 2 weeks. Those students who wished to remain in the course continued to the Expert track, which was completed in July 2017 (total of 8 weeks).

A certificate of participation could be obtained by students after their completion of both the Leadership track and the Expert track. Students also received free access to all course materials on a 24-hour online platform.

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A new UN major global campaign

On February 23, UN environment launched a major global #CleanSeas campaign to end marine litter: http://web.unep.org/newscentre/un-declares-war-ocean-plastic

Massive Open Online Course on Marine Litter in 2015

In October 2015 the launch of the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Marine Litter took place. The Open University of the Netherlands developed the MOOC in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

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Praise for the master thesis Microplastics in the rivers Meuse and Rhine

Fall 2015 Wilco Urgent defended his thesis about Microplastics in the rivers Meuse and Rhine. This thesis was awarded with the prize for the best science resarch from members of the science community at the Open Universiteit Eureka! Festival. 29 November 2015 Ansje Löhr presented at the Eureka! Festival in Amsterdam within the context of the Dutch National Research Agenda 'Plastics in the environment address worldwide'.

Education team

Ansje Löhr has a Master’s degree in Marine Biology (University of Groningen, NL) and a PhD degree in Ecotoxicology (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, NL). She is an assistant professor at the Department of Science at the faculty of Management, Science and Technology of the Open University of the Netherlands. Her teaching and research activities are within the research theme “Plastic environmental pollution” covering aspects of (marine) biology, (eco)toxicology, environmental science, integrated water management and learning for sustainable development. She is the project leader of the Massive Open Online Course on Marine litter which is developed in close cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML). Besides she is involved in (international) projects on competence based e-learning. The Soegijapranata Catholic University (Semarang, Indonesia), is one of the important research partners in the research theme Plastic environmental pollution.

Ad Ragas (1964) studied biology and obtained his PhD at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He currently holds a position as a full professor in Environmental Natural Sciences at the Open University in Heerlen (the Netherlands), and as an associate professor in Nijmegen. His main expertise is the modelling of human and ecological risks of chemicals, including (micro)plastics. Within this domain, his focus is on quantifying and assessing uncertainty. He played an active role in European research projects like NoMiracle and PHARMAS, and currently participates in i-PiE and MEDUWA; two large European research projects on the environmental risks of pharmaceuticals. He coordinates the MSc programme in Environmental Sciences at the Open University and teaches several academic courses on risk assessment, GIS and statistics. He chairs the Dutch scientific advisory committee on quality standards for air and water, and is a member of the working group on mixture assessment of the European Food & Safety Authority (EFSA).

Collaboration

Partners and projects

Plastic waste in the aquatic environment can vary greatly in size, i.e. from the nanometre to the meter scale. The larger macro plastics are mainly associated with visual pollution and forms of physical stress (e.g. entanglement and blocking of inlets), whereas the smaller micro plastics are mainly associated with food chain accumulation and toxic effects. Macro plastics typically originate from dumping, littering and wind dispersal, whereas micro plastics typically originate from the degradation of macro plastics and specific applications, e.g. micro beads in medicines and personal care products.

The need to address plastic pollution in aquatic environments has been recognized worldwide, e.g. in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Honolulu Strategy. The Department of Science cooperates with several organizations. Research topics focus on micro- and macroplastics pollution in rivers and seas and include detection methods, modelling, effects and preventive measures.

Global Partnership on Marine Litter

The Faculty of Management, Science & Technology of the Open University of The Netherlands is part of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML), a global community of stakeholders dedicated to reducing the sources and impacts of marine litter worldwide.

Current research partners